How do 5-year-olds understand questions? Differences in languages across Europe

Uli Sauerland*, Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Maria Teresa Guasti, Darinka Andelkovic, Reili Argus, Sharon Armon-Lotem, Fabrizio Arosio, Larisa Avram, Joao Costa, Ineta Dabasinskiene, Kristine de Lopez, Daniela Gatt, Helen Grech, Ewa Haman, Angeliek van Hout, Gordana Hrzica, Judith Kainhofer, Laura Kamandulyte-Merfeldiene, Sari Kunnari, Melita KovacevicJelena Kuvac Kraljevic, Katarzyna Lipowska, Sandrine Mejias, Masa Popovic, Jurate Ruzaite, Maja Savic, Anca Sevcenco, Spyridoula Varlokosta, Marina Varnava, Kazuko Yatsushiro

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The comprehension of constituent questions is an important topic for language acquisition research and for applications in the diagnosis of language impairment. This article presents the results of a study investigating the comprehension of different types of questions by 5-year-old, typically developing children across 19 European countries, 18 different languages, and 7 language (sub-)families. The study investigated the effects of two factors on question formation: (a) whether the question contains a simple interrogative word like 'who' or a complex one like 'which princess', and (b) whether the question word was related to the sentential subject or object position of the verb. The findings show that there is considerable variation among languages, but the two factors mentioned consistently affect children's performance. The cross-linguistic variation shows that three linguistic factors facilitate children's understanding of questions: having overt case morphology, having a single lexical item for both 'who' and 'which', and the use of synthetic verbal forms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-202
    Number of pages34
    JournalFirst Language
    Volume36
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2016

    Keywords

    • Agreement
    • case
    • comprehension
    • cross-linguistic
    • questions
    • syntax
    • wh-phrases
    • OBJECT WH-QUESTIONS
    • RELATIVE CLAUSES
    • CHILDREN
    • ACQUISITION
    • COMPREHENSION
    • DISSIMILARITIES
    • MINIMALITY
    • SUBJECT
    • SLI

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